The New Year’s Eve fireworks are cancelled, as is the Lord Mayor’s show and presumably plenty of other exciting plans and calendar events. While we are not in full lockdown again, it is clear that new measures will be yet another blow to London’s already suffering economy (not to mention our collective mood).
Business groups and other organisations have not minced their words in reaction to this week’s announcements by the Prime Minister, but it is clear that we are in for a tough six months.
So, let us distract with news of… new rail franchise arrangements and err, ‘virtual’ party conferences. Or perhaps we can cheer you with some cultural happenings that are happening – Open House London and a soon-to-be reopened National Theatre offer glimmers of joy.
Meanwhile, LDN was sad to hear of the death of Patrick Deuchar at 71 after a long illness. London watchers from the 1990s will know he was the transformative CEO of the Royal Albert Hall and one of the champions for London’s campaign to garner funding from the National Lottery for a wide range of cultural projects in the run up to the Millennium. He also nearly ran for Mayor of London on an independent ticket in 2000, but like many business leaders he decided not to and the role still hasn’t attracted a serious business candidate – yet. There is still time to declare ahead of May 2021 and surely we have never needed a savvy business brain more…
THE VIEW FROM LONDON
Following yesterday’s Prime Ministerial statement to the Commons and televised national address, the country is getting to grips with a new set of restrictions and the prospect of a very long six months in the fight against Covid-19. Many of these new measures (including a 10pm closing time for pubs, bars and restaurants, as well as stronger enforcement powers and wider use of masks) broadly align with a number of recommendations agreed by the Mayor of London, London Borough Leaders and public health experts, which were presented to the Government earlier this week. However, City Hall and Town Halls alike are now calling for London’s testing system to be bolstered and for industries most impacted by the new measures to be given more financial support. The City of London Corporation, as well as business associations London First and LCCI, have all understandably reacted rather coolly, sounding alarms over the capital’s economic health.
GLA macroeconomic analysis seen by City A.M. indicates that the capital’s unemployment could rise by 5.5% by next year alone, i.e. more than doubling London’s unemployment rate, which stood at about 5% in the second quarter of 2020. Furthermore, with the residential evictions ban expiring last weekend and the furlough scheme winding down within slightly more than a month, many Londoners will find themselves struggling– though other measures to support renters, an expanded Kickstart scheme and others plans under discussion, may yet help. Just as we went to print, the Chancellor revealed he would be announcing new business and job support measures tomorrow. Worryingly, new analysis by homelessness charities and London Assembly’s Housing Committee indicates the number of people sleeping on the streets was on the rise, even before the lockdown.
- Shortly after last week’s edition went to press, the Labour Leader of Merton Council Cllr Stephen Alambritis announced that he will be stepping down in November after a decade, for personal reasons (though he will stay on as a councillor). The council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) saw few other surprises, but the next full council meeting in two months’ time will see a new Leader elected and potentially, a wider Cabinet reshuffle.
- Meanwhile, the annual meeting of Islington’s Labour Group heralded several changes to the Council’s Cabinet in advance of its full AGM, which will be held tomorrow. While Council Leader Richard Watts and most Cabinet members will remain in place, Cllr Janet Burgess will be stepping down as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care, in which roles she will be succeeded by Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz and Cllr Nurullah Turan respectively. Additionally, Cllr Sue Lukes will be appointed to a new portfolio for Community Safety.
- Haringey Labour is comparatively reticent about the outcomes of its group annual meeting, in advance of a full council AGM now scheduled for 1 October. The council website confirms that four of five councillors previously suspended by the Labour Party have now been reinstated, while Cllr Adam Jogee has been congratulated for being elected Haringey’s next Mayor by Sadiq Khan and others. Watch this space for more!
REGISTER TO VOTE
Last week, the GLA launched a voter registration drive ahead of next May’s Mayoral and London Assembly elections. In partnership with Shout Out UK, the GLA's campaign has specifically targeted those from under-represented groups, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic Londoners, young people and those in rented accommodation, who are less likely to be on the register. For more details and opportunities to support London Voter Registration Week, visit the project’s dedicated website. Oh and if you haven’t registered to vote, you can do so easily here.
Meanwhile, as reported in the last edition of LDN, London’s Returning Officers have been contacted by the Cabinet Office about arrangements for next year’s elections. The letter has now been made public and can be read here.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced the end of the current rail franchising system, set up 24 years ago. Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs), signed by all current operators, are now in place as a transitional arrangement and are expected to remain in force until March 2022 at the latest. The Government has promised that the ERMAs will hold rail companies to higher performance targets and require them to cooperate more closely, while awarding them lower management fees, capped at 1.5% of each franchise’s cost base before the pandemic began. As for what comes after ERMA’s expire? It is hard to say at the moment, though the private sector is sure to still play a part in any new system, which is likely to take at least a few ideas from the recommendations of the Williams Rail Review.
In London, the Mayor will be following the evolution of rail reform plans closely, having long agitated for the devolution of suburban rail services to TfL – though considering TfL’s financial state and the cool relations between City Hall and No 10, that would appear unlikely. Meanwhile, Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has published proposals to help solve TfL’s money problems, suggesting that some of London’s Tube stations be renamed (for a price) as part of advertising agreements with major companies. According to Bailey, the scheme could bring in an estimated £100m annually. While this is not a wholly original idea, it has never been implemented at such a scale in London and could help bolster TfL’s advertising revenues.
'Labour Connected,’ a scaled-down programme of online speeches and events instead of the usual annual Party Conference, kicked off on Sunday and concluded on Tuesday. As per relevant press coverage and commentary, set-piece speeches by Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Cabinet members indicate a push by the party towards the political centre-ground as part of a renewed focus on improving the party’s ‘electability.’ While the London Mayor, local MPs and councillors featured prominently throughout the event and its fringe, London itself was not particularly prominent – perhaps not surprising, given the party’s need to focus medium term of Scotland and the “red wall”. Indicatively, a speech by Sadiq Khan’s was one of 17 in an hour-long ‘Road to May 2021 Elections’ rally. We noted only one event about the capital, a fringe webinar hosted by Dods and London Councils, entitled ‘A capital without cars? London’s green recovery from coronavirus.’ We also noted that planning did not receive much attention, which seems slightly odd in the midst of the biggest planning system shakeup in decades?
Looking ahead, the Liberal Democrats' conference will run from 25 -28 September, while the Conservatives’ will be held between 3-6 October.
PLANNING FOR RECOVERY
The West London Alliance, the partnership between the boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow, has launched the West London Build and Recover Strategy. The plan is intended to help the 280,000 people in West London who have been furloughed during the pandemic, many of whom have been affected by the impact of COVID-19 on Heathrow Airport.
The Centre for London think tank is meanwhile set to launch its ‘London at a crossroads’ report tomorrow morning, at a virtual event. Part of its London Futures programme, the event will discuss the priorities for the future of the capital and the impact of COVID-19 on Londoners. Speakers will include Nickie Aiken MP (Con) and leader of Lambeth Council Jack Hopkins (Lab).
Campaigners seeking to change Newham’s system of local government away from a directly-elected Mayor model have said that they have secured the number of signatures required to trigger a referendum on the issue. The petition, which has been signed by over 11,000 people, was launched last year after Newham councillors decided to push back the date for a planned referendum. Mayor Rokshana Fiaz (Lab) had pledged to hold a poll of residents on the issue when standing for the role in 2018. The earliest the vote can happen, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, is May 2021. Meanwhile, the Leader of Croydon Tony Newman (Lab) has said that he has been advised by lawyers that a referendum to decide whether the borough should change from its current Leader and Cabinet model to a directly-elected Mayor system cannot take place on 6 May 2021. While campaigners in Croydon had hoped the referendum would take place on this date, coinciding with the Mayoral and Assembly elections, Newman contends that preparations for the referendum cannot start in time to enable this.
SQUARE MILE LATEST
The City of London Corporation’s Chief Commoner Brian Mooney is set to serve an additional year in the role, amid the COVID-19 crisis. At the invitation of the Court of Common Council, Mooney will remain in post until April 2022. The Chief Commoner’s role dates back to 1444 and is currently focused on representing elected councillors, as well as holding them accountable to standards of “discipline and integrity” – with specific responsibilities covering a number of internal scrutiny functions, as well as the more general promotion of the Corporation’s aims, values and responsibilities (more details here). Meanwhile, a report into the governance of the City of London has been published. Rather critical in places, the independent report into the Corporation’s structure makes a series of 90 recommendations. The Corporation will now consider these, in order to decide which (and to what extent) are implemented, as well as the timescales for doing so.
The Mayor of London has confirmed that London’s iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks will not take place this year. Approximately 100,000 people flock to Victoria Embankment every year to watch the display, but Sadiq has said that ‘we simply can’t afford to have numbers of people congregating’ (though he did also disclose however that the GLA is ‘working on something people can enjoy’ from home).
It has also been confirmed that the City of London Corporation’s Lord Mayor’s Show has been cancelled, for the first time since 1852 (in that instance it was 'to allow for a period of national mourning for the Duke of Wellington.') While the event had been planned to go ahead with limited public attendance, the organisers have taken the decision to cancel the event in the interest of public safety.
CAPITAL OF CULTURE
However, all is not lost for London’s cultural offering:
- As part of its Borough of Culture programme, a series of 23 new art commissions will be displayed across Brent from 19 September until 13 December.
- Open House launched its annual festival this weekend. The event, which this year will take place both physically and virtually, is encouraging participants to get to know their local areas better.
- The National Theatre plans to reopen in October, with its largest stage remodelled to cater to a socially-distanced audience.
LCA Board Director & Client Services Director Suzi Lawrence spoke at the BPF Futures webinar today, on ‘Thriving in a virtual team’. Suzi, along with fellow panellists Laura Parker from GL Hearn and Susan Freeman from Mischcon de Reya shared some of the lessons learned from working remotely over the last six months. From the importance of flexibility – both in time and space – to more practical advice such as making sure each team member had the right equipment to work effectively and clearly marking out breaks in your diary to get away from screens and work. The webinar also looked at the importance of the right use of social media in these times for networking and career support, as well as the increased and varied opportunities for training. A recording of the webinar can be found on the BPF website here.
FESTIVAL OF PLACE
The Festival of Place has launched its two week programme of interactive learning (2 - 13 November 2020). The jam packed programme will include inspiring talks, masterclasses, placehacks, workshops and much more - on subjects ranging from the future of planning, to zero carbon cities and novel approaches to engaging communities. More than 100 organisations, including developers, architects, local authorities, central Government departments, and research centres, are already set to attend and we are delighted to be the event's official communications partner. To join other urban shapers from around the world to question, challenge and learn (and take advantage of early bird ticket sales), visit the Festival's website.
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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